As you may already know, I fall in love with a new boat almost every week that goes by. Which is perfectly okay since I already own a yacht (that I of course love dearly) and since I do not have the money to buy a new boat, why not dreaming? Anyway, there is a certain kind of yachts I love most, and that is the boat built of aluminium. I love the looks of the material, I love the properties and characteristics of an aluminium yacht and now, that I was out at last sailing an aluminium boat (read about it here) I very, very much love the superior sailing abilities.
Last week when I drove down to the marina where my boat is situated my saw another aluminium boat being put to dry land on a cradle, a man – seemingly tiny in front of the 55 feet huge boat – was bristling around the hull working on the antifouling cover of the yacht. It was a Dutch made Bestevaer 55ST, I instantly recognized the all too familiar lines of this boat. After doing my business, I drove up to the man, greeted him and 10 minutes later the friendly owner agreed that I would make an article on his marvel and granted me access to the yacht: “Be aware that the ship isn´t too tidy and cluttered!”, no problem, I thought, happy to eventually see my first K&M made boat.
This Bestevaer was a very, very beautiful ship, to say the least. Although being built back in 2011 there was nothing about her that pointed to a yacht that already had sailed 7 full years. As the Czech owner told me, he preferred to sail her around in the Northern waters of Norway, Sweden and the like – an area these boats are perfectly well adapted to cope with, I am sure. The Bestevaer-type of boat is a classy design by Dutch naval architect Gerard Dijkstra appealing to skippers who seek the “shiplike” look, a full, round chined seakind hull and old fashioned, fine classy interiors. I made ready my camera and followed the owner on the slim ladder up to the deck of the PILGRIM, which was the name of the fine ship.
Being on deck of the Bestevaer 55ST
The Bestevaer 55ST has a length over all of 55 and a half feet which translates to staggering 16.90 metres: “The boat is just appearing big. She will be smaller once back in the water”, her owner assured me and smiled. I was not so sure: Standing at her single steering wheel looking to the bow I instantly recognized her maximum beam of 4.64 metres and the beamy, full body that was her hull. She is indeed a big ship, designed for the very, very long trip for sure!
As the identification plate stated, the boat was built by K&M Yachtbuilders, a renowned company based in Makkum in the Netherlands, just inside of the Eastern end of the huge Afsluitdijk an the North Sea. The people of K&M are known for their fine works with aluminium yachts and the brand is synonymous for high quality, seaworthy, solid and enduring metal yachts. When it comes to the Bestevaer-type of aluminium yachts, the two principle defining points are the steep bow and the classy pilot house.
On the PILGRIM the pilot house might measure some 2.50 metres in length and some 2 metres in width. There are rectangular windows all around the deck house which are ensuring a full 360 degrees panorama view from inside as well as they serve as a major source for natural light for the internal rooms of the boat as there are just two small round portholes in the hull for the saloon. I instantly recognized the massive, thick Teak frames for the windows as well for the grab handles all around: This is definitely not a yacht that features veneered stuff!
The cockpit is built like shelter. I can perfectly imagine a very heavy storm with waves as high as houses raging on outside and an iron man behind the steering wheel: The cockpit is secured by a coaming as deep as 1.10 metres – no chance to fall outside from here! Again massive Teak benches and a huge self-drainage. The pilot house is elongated to abaft to act as a solid dodger as well. The owner of PILGRIM had also installed a large Bimini as sun protection (something I would immediately remove, although I acknowledge the value of an installation like this). The boat is steered from a single wheeled post that translates steering impulses directly on to a massive single balanced skegless rudder blade. Although all lines are diverted abaft, the six massive winches are placed outside the coamings of the cockpit: The classic approach of this boat is definitely nothing for people who seek a “maritime chillout zone” which are modern cruisers. This is a boat for sailors.
The winches are partially electric, which is a good thing for example when it comes to winching up the main sail via the halyard winch of this 55 feet hulk. The main sail might weigh in too much for winching it up by hand. Same with the Genoa sail which might be a pain in the ass to furling in manually as well. Nevertheless, what instantly comes to my mind when I looked over the fore deck with all the ropes and lines, the Genoa-tracks, dorade air vents and stuff: The is also not very cluttered, thus not made to accustom sunbathing straw-hatted ladies with a cold drink in their hands. That´s a boat made to heaving through heavy growler-spiked waters.
Who is going for a boat like the Bestevaer? As every vessel of this type is a semi-custom made yacht, it is definitely not the spare-time skipper. It´s possibly a serious sailor who has something special in his mind. Bestevaer yachts have crossed all known Oceans, are frequently roaming the high Latitudes, are crossing ice-packed straights and storm-tossed passages. So did PILGRIM, so much could I draw from her owner, who, understandably, is a bit humble to tell all of her sailing stories to a stranger like me. He invites me to her interior.
Classic design for the long haul sailing voyage
First to mention, the pilot house on the Bestevaer 55ST is a great thing! Before I enter down the steps I again take a thorough look at the construction: The deck house reminds me of the classy superstructures to be found on old sailing ships like the Clippers. Rectangular, practical and fully dedicated to the function to be served, there is a certain style in this aspect itself. One might call it ugly, the other might call it beautiful – but all have to agree that it perfectly serves its purpose.
As I enter the pilot house I am astonished of the volume that is created by it. There are again two benches on either side facing each other. On the starboard side the navigation station has found a perfect position: The chart table is just huge and the carpentry level is highest standard here. I also found the navigational equipment positioned just perfectly well and taking a seat here give a full round sight – what a joy must it be on being on watch during a rainy night just off Greenland, sitting in the warmth of the polit house sailing this beauty?!
From here one enters another few steps down to the deck-level of the boat. The benches are as well the ceilings of the aft chambers of the Bestevaer 55ST: In her standard configuration this boat is a twin-cabin yacht: One owner´s cabin in the fore peak and a port side aft cabin – under the left pilot house bench. To the right there is a huge lazarette housing a washing machine and some other stuff right next to the big engine room of the boat.
I think the pilot house is a perfect thing for a boat like this. It fits perfectly the classic-oriented concept of the yacht on the one hand and is awesomely practical on the other hand: The skipper can do his chart work, ship´s log and stuff virtually on the same level just a few feet away from the steering wheel, preventing him to having to go down all the way into the salon to take a note in the log or check on something. On the other hand, the salon is freed of the volume-eating chart table and can thus be totally dedicated to being comfy. Not to mention the awesomeness of a dry and warm place like this during a rainy cold night´s watch …
Interior design of the Bestevaer 55ST
I proceed further down and upon going down the ladder to the hull one passes by the galley of the Bestevaer which is positioned on the starboard side of the boat. This isn´t very classy since on old ships the galley has been situated on the port side, but that´s just a small thing to be overseen. The galley is big, offering loads of stowage and work tops to prepare a good sailor´s meal. There are two sinks, a big fridge/freezer combination and a three flamed stove. But there´s something special to this galley: The stove. At first I thought that it is odd to have it mounted aslant, not along the longitudinal axis, but now I know: It´s just brilliant! Because, no matter on which tack the boat is sailing, the stove will either tend to left or right, but never (as it would be if mounted the traditional way) tend away from the cook if the boat would sail on starboard tack. Brilliant, as I said!
To port side of the hull, vis-à-vis the galley, there is a door to the aft cabin which due to private matters of the occupying owner I haven´t taken a picture of. But I can assure you that there is plenty of room inside, beautifully done wooden interiors like a nice ceiling and roofing. The berths seem to be of proper sizes and there is also plenty of volume for clothing. Also, the adjoining bathroom features a toilet, a sufficient big enough sink and a shower. Now for the salon, which is very special and undeniably the social centre of this yacht.
Again I unfortunately am not able to show the full size of this salon as the port side of the room was stuffed with private things of the owner. Nevertheless, let me describe: There is a huge (maybe 5 seater?) settee on starboard side with a big, nice massive wooden dining table in front. All the way through the passageway to the owner´s cabin, there is another L-settee offering some cosiness. To port side the salon features a small portlight, to starboard side the interior design promotes one but there actually isn´t a window at all. All of the natural light must either enter from abaft through the pilot house or from above through two skylights in the ceiling.
The owner´s cabin is huge as one can imagine on a 55-footer. And again, like everything else on this yacht, it´s very practical and nicely done. The ceiling has been done in massive timber of which I think it´s Mahogany. There is a porthole to either side and a very large island bed. Some simple shelves for the small things and huge lockers right next to the entrance doors. Although there aren´t too many opening hatches or skylights, this cabin, like the rest of the boat, is pretty much light in appearance due to white-lacquered wooden surfaces. You feel instantly at home. And you feel like being on a proper ship. Not a boat …
Nicely done details
On this occasion I´d like to extend some credits to the carpentry department of K&M Yachtbuilders. The people here have done an amazing job, so to say! There are so many lovely details in the joinery that I could easily produce another articles on the fine interior stuff they have made. Let´s have a look at three of the nicest details I´ve spotted during my walkthrough of this fine Bestevaer 55ST …
First of all the settees in the salon. They are just perfectly made! But they have been made to not just being a settee, but they also applied some carved in some facets – the massive wood thus resembles the old fashioned nice style of sailing ships and conveys an atmosphere of the “good old times”. It´s just amazing to look at all the joinery, especially for myself, because in the past years I just had the pleasure to mostly walk through very, very modern – also stylish – yachts which adhere to the current stream of interior design. The Bestevaer is old-fashioned in the best sense of the word.
I also loved the Diesel stove on this boat (I think it is standard on the 55ST as well as on her smaller and bigger sisters). Reading almost everything I can about sailing through the North-West-Passage I remember almost every skipper stating that ordinary heating systems installed on sailing yachts will not be able to heat up the boat´s interior sufficiently whilst sailing in these high Latitudes. This stove surely will – and besides, even when it is not in action, it is a gorgeous detail that absolutely fits here to this yacht!
And last but definitely not least, take a look at the awesome roofing! I am struggling so much in my own yacht replacing the old roofing panels with new ones. My design approach is a different one but I really admire and instantly fell in love with the PILGRIM´s roofing style. It´s very bright, its very appeasing and – again – it so much belongs here to this yacht! The simple beauty of slim, white, longitudinal panels and a traverse batten every now and then – I just love it! The Bestevaer has so many other things to talk about, but I didn´t want to take away more time from her friendly owner because I knew he had a tight schedule to keep, so I left the boat, not without instantaneously congratulating him on this fine vessel.
Wishing the best for the upcoming voyages
The Bestevaer 55ST is a perfect yacht for the long trip. Due to her full body she might not be the fastest but she is certainly the safest yacht to cross a wild Ocean with! The powerful rigg might as well propel her to nice speeds, but I guess that is not her sole purpose. The owner assures me that the coming journey will take her up to the Norwegian North again, later, maybe next year, the boat is up for a trip to Spitzbergen – a fact of which I envy him and his boat so much!
The PILGRIM is equipped with a fixed keel although at least smaller Bestevaer-boats can also be fitted with a centreboard solution. This might make the boats ready to sneak into shallower waters taking shelter in bays or inlets to avoid the worst of foul weather. Being equipped with a single deep rudder blade, the Bestevaer won´t be able to fall dry – there are definitely boats better suited for this task, like the Alubat Ovni-series. The Bestevaer might more be a passage maker in this respect.
Her owner removes the last meters of masking tape while I am taking the last batches of pictures. The next day, back at work, I see the mighty boat hanging in the massive harness of the boat crane slowly being transported back to the watering basin, where PILGRIM is lowered slowly back into her natural habitat. I help the owner mooring the boat nearby and have a last small chat with him.
As the owner tells me, after finishing the antifouling cover of the hull, the boat will be sailed by him alone to another Baltic Sea port nearby where the yacht is going to stay for the summer. Later, in a few months, he plans to again sail her to Norway. I wish her, the PILGRIM, a safe voyage and her crew the best moments in their lives aboard this marvelous boat. Fair winds, PILGRIM!
You like aluminium sailing yachts? Might try out these articles:
Aluminium marvel made in Germany: Berckemeyer yachts
Sailing on Judel/Vrolijk 40 ft Drop Keel Cruiser AMAROK
The new Alubat Cigale 16 at the yard